If you’ve recently come back from deployment with the military, then you may be finding it pretty hard to adjust to civilian life. You’ve probably heard before that this is completely normal. After the initial joy and relief of coming home, you may be re-living the harrowing experiences you had overseas. You could find that your mind is reacting to certain stimulus in a way that was commonplace and natural in a combat zone, but is inappropriate back home. While you’ll probably never be quite the same as you were before seeing combat, you can still feel like you’re really home. Here’s some helpful advice for adjusting to civilian life.
The first and most important piece of advice I can give is to allow yourself time to settle in. Every service member who returns from a combat zone will take time to re-adjust. No one can come back from an environment where they’ve been exposed to life-threatening events, witnessed violent deaths and experienced personal losses without bringing some of it home with them. The fact that you’ll be there one day and home the next makes the transition even more difficult for a lot of people. Even if you didn’t have any particularly intense experiences overseas, the change can still feel very extreme. You may find yourself missing the strict structure and clear objectives of military life, and struggling with the various uncertainties that come with life at home. You need to realize that re-adjusting isn’t something that will happen overnight, so give it time.
If you’re finding yourself pre-occupied with thoughts about your experiences during deployment, then it may help in your re-adjustment to get back into a routine. A sense of structure in your civilian life can be very helpful with taking your mind away from the combat zone, and back at home where it belongs. Stay fit and active, and pay attention to your nutrition. Try to find some kind of project you can work on regularly that will give your civilian life a more orderly sense of structure. Deal with any DIY that needs doing around the house, help your kids out with their schoolwork, re-discover an old hobby or try to quit smoking. Like many veterans, you may have come back to various financial complications that need attention. Managing your household’s money during your deployment may have proved quite difficult. If you had to relocate frequently before being deployed, your partner may have had troubles keeping their career on track. If you were injured or contracted a serious illness while overseas, you may have also run into trouble with your veteran’s disability claim. Read this at Brown & Crouppen for more on these claims. Whether it’s personal, financial or spiritual, find some goal to occupy yourself with, and re-adjustment will come much more naturally.
If you’re throwing yourself into healthy activities like these and your experiences overseas are still the main thing on your mind, then don’t be afraid to talk about them. It isn’t rare for servicemen and women coming back from combat zones to have issues with settling back into their past relationships. When you come back to be re-united with family and friends, it can feel like you’re starting all over again rather than picking up where you left it. Aside from the way your experiences have changed you, there have also been various changes going on at home in your absence. Your spouse will have been used to getting by without you for a long time, so their personality may seem like it’s changed to this effect. As the old maxim goes, children grow up so fast, and may have a whole host of new interests and mannerisms. Many of your civilian friends will have trouble understanding how your experiences in combat have shaped who you are. Re-establishing healthy, normal relationships after you return can be quite the challenge, and will require a lot of understanding and patience on both sides. It may help to re-connect with some old military buddies, and talk over how you’re both adjusting to being civilians again. There are probably support groups for veterans in your local area too, who may be able to help you rekindle your past relationships.
Just like before your deployment, you’re going to have to think about being a good husband or wife at home. Settling back into this role is an important step to re-adjusting to civilian life. After so much time of you being away, your partner will probably feel a lot more self-reliant and independent. As a result, there may be new household routines which you’re not used to. A good start is simply talking about everything they experienced at home without you there. Go through the highs and the lows, and try not to be too judgmental about something you would have handled differently. Similarly, you should make an effort to adjust to the house’s new routines, rather than expecting your spouse to pander to the way things were. When you feel you’re ready, open up to your spouse and talk about your combat duty as much as you can manage. Obviously, it’s going to feel much more natural to talk about your experiences with fellow veterans than with your husband or wife. However, if you’re going to have any hope of re-establishing that trust and intimacy you had with your partner, you can’t remain a closed book forever. Take it at your own pace, but try to tell your spouse something about your tour. If you can’t mention certain things, try to explain why rather than giving a blunt “no”. Opening up can be extremely difficult at first, but it will help your entire household in the long run.
I hope that this post has given you some help in this very difficult time. No amount of words or tips can make coming home a breeze. However, there’s always a way to make a situation better. Try this advice for yourself, and hopefully your adjustment will move quickly and smoothly.